Summer Reading Survival Kit

Summer starts—where else?—on the beach. In “The Stylist,” Jennifer Egan transports us to a photo shoot on the coast of Kenya, where her focus isn’t on the supermodels but on their handlers, who hover just outside the frame. Likewise, Debra Marquart plunges deep into the lives of backup singers, whose names escape us but whose riffs we know well, in her essay “Buried Voices.” We guarantee you’ll never hear the Rolling Stones’ iconic “Gimme Shelter” the same way again.

“Summer for prose and lemons” writes Nobel Prize winner Derek Walcott, who’d agree that summer is for poetry. Alberto Álvaro Ríos shows us the view of the Fourth of July from the US-Mexico border in his wonderful “Day of the Refugios.” And Jacqueline Jones LaMon evokes all five senses in her reminiscence of childhood summers—sprinklers, drenched clothes, sucked ice—in “The Only Time We Think of It Is When It’s No Longer There.”

We leave you with two for the road. You know Mary-Louise Parker from Weeds and The West Wing fame, but have you read her writing? Her memoir “Dear Orderly” takes us to the heart of things—her loves, her children, the folly and heartbreak that is, well, the stuff of a well-told life. And finally, Tobias Wolff’s story “Soldier’s Joy,” about an army lifer who’s torn between the camaraderie in the service and the more difficult connections back in the world. Wolff gives us a tale that’s painfully comedic and captivatingly tragic—in short, everything a great story should be.

Soon it will be time to return to the everyday world. But not yet. It’s summer. Kick back and enjoy.

                                                                                   —The Editors